From the time that Arteta was initially being heavily linked as our next manager until now, there has been a gradual, but definite change in the online Arsenal community’s opinion of the move. Personally, I have felt from the beginning that Arteta would be an exciting hire. However, it goes without saying that when you hire someone with zero managerial experience, there is a definite risk factor associated with the move.
The good news, is that there is no empirical evidence that Arteta would is a bad manager. The bad news, is that there is also no empirical evidence he is a good manager. For many other candidates, who come with a managerial track record that comes with highs and lows, the risk factor involved might be things like, is he a good fit for this club, can he recapture his best managerial form, etc. With Arteta, the risk is just simply that we have no clue what he will be like as a manager. Right?
Well, mostly yes. He’s never managed a single match. However, there are many clues we can put together that paint a picture, and a rather nice one at that.
The first question, would be, what is he like as a manager? Is he a reserved, tactical mastermind? Or is he a fiery, passionate motivator? Here is what Arteta himself had to say on the matter: “My philosophy will be clear. I will have everyone 120 per cent committed, that’s the first thing. If not, you don’t play for me. When it’s time to work it’s time to work, and when it’s time to have fun then I’m the first one to do it, but that commitment is vital. Then I want the football to be expressive, entertaining. I cannot have a concept of football where everything is based on the opposition. We have to dictate the game, we have to be the ones taking the initiative, and we have to entertain the people coming to watch us.”
Okay, so what. It’s good that he will demand full commitment from the players, and he wants to continue and expand upon the expressive, beautiful style that Arsenal play. How do we know that he will be able to execute?
Immediately after ending his playing career with Arsenal, two of the world’s most respected managers, Guardiola and Pochettino, were right there to try and lure him into a coaching position. Clearly, there was an understanding between the two of an immense footballing brain that Arteta possesses and innate coaching potential. Both of the managers have gushed over his ability and leadership personality, with Guardiola even giving a large amount of credit to Arteta for Man City’s success this season, saying “we are so comfortable, not just me, working with him. One of the reasons for our success this season is because Mikel is here.”
To go with the high praise from respected managers, I don’t think it has been stated enough how much Arteta has probably learned from working under Guardiola the last two years. We’re not talking about Arteta being an assistant just anywhere, he was an assistant under one of the greatest managers of this generation, if not all time. If Arteta learned everything he knows about managing from Pep, he’ll probably make a damn good manager. Every day he got to learn about Pep’s coaching philosophy, the physical manifestation of that philosophy in training every day, and then the consistent execution every single matchday that made Man City one of the greatest sides in Premier League history.
It seems as though Arteta will be carrying some of the Wenger philosophy over, much like Wenger believed football was art, and should be expressed as such, Arteta has expressed similar opinions from his brief synopsis of his own philosophy.
I think we can all agree, that one of the shortcomings of Wenger in his later years, was his lack of hands-on coaching, and his tendency to want players to express themselves. When you have the likes of Henry, Vieira, and Bergkamp, that philosophy would probably work very well, and it did. We still have many players that can produce beautiful virtuosity, like Ozil and Mkhitaryan, but we also have a crop of young talent that need direction, and need instruction.
That’s where we could stand to gain some of Guardiola’s philosophy. Many of Arsenal’s issues, especially at the backline, have looked like they were due to complete disorganisation and a lack of structure. We need someone to come in and give us a formula, or a structure to help the younger players have a specific role and duty, and allow the smart, veteran players the creative freedom to continue to do what they do best. I think that marriage of Wenger and Guardiola’s philosophy could be something unlike anything the world has seen.
Based on everything we, the fans know, Arteta seems like a bit of a gamble. But based on the opinions of the people that have seen Arteta behind the scenes everyday, we would be getting an excellent manager. I’m going to trust that if this move is made, it is not a gamble made out of desperation because we didn’t get our first choice, but rather, a very educated risk that has the potential to be a great move.